12:19 p.m. Wednesday, January
For those of you who were wondering what it would be like to stay up until 5:30 a.m. after your annual New Year's Eve party and then go work on your house not much later on New Year's Day, here are some things you can pretty much count on happening:
1. You will get started much much
later in the day than previously anticipated.
8. And finally, as your head hits
the pillow, you will mumble something about never again working on the
house after staying up so late. Because honestly, you can't really promise
not to stay up that late again next year.
11:47 p.m. Friday, January 7,
Details to come...
10:21 p.m. Sunday, January 9,
The two photos above were taken prior to and while we were running circuits to the panel in the basement (the electrical panel is the metallic box attached to the sheet of plywood). The two photos below were taken this evening:
Phew. That's a lot of circuits. And it took nearly a month to get them all to this corner of the basement, connected to outlet and switch boxes throughout the house. At one point last week, we counted 43 circuits, which was kind of a problem since our box only holds 40.
Oops. Guess we shoulda counted earlier. ;)
So with a little extra effort and careful consolidation, Ryan and I whittled it down to 36 circuits this evening (39 by our inspection). And within the next few days, Sam is going to connect all the circuits to the panel so we can actually utilize the 200 amps of service he provided us with last month. It will be nice to work at night with lights that aren't connected to extension cords running from the basement.
We worked through the night this past Thursday — literally — to finally get everything done and were thoroughly exhausted when Friday morning rolled around and we realized the inspector could show up at ANY MOMENT.
Between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., to be exact.
He arrived around noontime. We peeked out the windows and watched anxiously as he slowly got out of his car bearing the town seal on the door. The first thing we noticed was that he was much older than we had anticipated, and he was dressed very well. Especially for someone who spends their days walking around construction sites. No business casual for him. He was all business from the get-go.
The first thing he wanted to look at was the electrical panel in the corner of the basement, where the circuits all ended up (in the photos above). He glanced over all our hard work in a moment or two and then moved right along without saying much, making us wonder just what he was thinking. How had he so quickly assessed this small corner of space that had consumed so many hours of our lives within the past few months?
He slowly meandered around the basement, poking outlets here and there and making comments to himself. Ryan and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows as we trailed him closely. He made a comment that one particular box was OK according to the old code, but that now it was "...no good — get rid of it."
We promised we would. More confused glances to each other.
And then, "OK, let's move upstairs." And just like that, he was done looking at the basement! He had only gotten within a couple feet of a few boxes down there, and he didn't even go near the whole other half of the basement, which we had rewired especially for his viewing pleasure.
But we just thought, "Hey, it's his inspection. If he doesn't want to see anymore, we won't argue. Upstairs it is."
The 1st floor was the same as the basement. He didn't set foot in the living room or the dining room, and when he glanced into the kitchen, he made no comments about the coiled wires for the microwave and the stove that have yet to be connected to boxes. I guess that's more normal than we thought.
He actually walked into most of the rooms on the 2nd floor. By now, Ryan and I were grinning like little kids behind his back as he walked along, still commenting to himself and poking at things randomly. When he finally had seen enough, he reached for the little sticky on his clipboard. The WHITE sticky. The sticky you proudly display in your window for the whole world to see that says you PASSED your inspection.
The grins were gone. It was full smiles now. The inspector looked up from his clipboard and we tried our hardest to play it cool. He turned to Ryan and asked, "Were you working with an electrician to do all this?" to which Ryan responded, "Well, we had a licensed electrician upgrade our service and we called him with questions from time to time."
And then the inspector said — are you ready? — he said, "Well, I'm very surprised to hear all this was done by a homeowner. This job was very professionally done. It was a very easy inspection." We gave up all hope of trying to hide our enthusiasm by this point. We were elated that all our hard work and lack of free time (and sleep!) had paid off in the end.
Still smiling ear to ear from the compliment, Ryan answered, "Yup, I did it all myself," which of course earned a squinty grimace from me — it's hard to grimace when you're smiling — and he quickly added, "With my wife's help, of course."
Good recovery, babe.
"Oh, of course," added the inspector, as if just playing along for my benefit. He filled out the white sticker, checking off the box for "Rough Electrical Inspection" and the box for "Service Upgrade," asking us a few more questions as he filled in the blanks — questions you'd think he should have asked BEFORE filling out the sticker — but fortunately, we had all the right answers.
And then he was gone. Quick as that. Meandering back to his unassuming green station wagon with the town seal on the door. We cheered and ran from room to room and maybe even shouted a little bit...those details are all kind of a blur. We just knew there was no more worrying about circuits yet to be run. No more staying up all night, constantly forgetting where we last left our pliers or staples or cups of coffee.
Well, we may have more late nights forgetting where we left our cups of coffee, but it won't involve anything electrical!
And now that all is said and done, we want to send out a special thank-you to all our helpers:
Besides my dad and Ryan's mom (both pictured above), we had help from
Ryan's dad, my mom, Lori & Jay, and my friend Ann from work. Thank
you so much for giving up your free time and volunteering even when
you had no idea what you were getting yourselves into — we couldn't
have done it without you!
4:31 p.m. Monday, January 10,
The stairs to the 2nd floor are installed and look just lovely. They are much more functional than having to scramble up and down the ladder a bazillion times a night. The photo on the left was taken from just inside the front door, looking up, and the photo on the right was taken from the dining room looking towards the foyer and the living room beyond.
Here are our basement stairs:
They're pine and much filthier now than in this picture, even though I sweep constantly. =)
Our side entrance from the driveway into the kitchen is finished (foreground, above), as are the stoop and stairs that make up the rear entrance (background, above). Tom did a great job building these two sets of stairs. I am especially fond of the square newell posts and the unexpected little hand rail.
Here is our mostly-finished front entrance and stairs. All that's missing is the trim piece beneath the doorway, which will cover the flashing. The columns need a good coat of white paint, but we're no where near breaking out our paint brushes just yet. We've decided to hold off on adding railings for now, as we've been told we don't need them per code with a stoop this low to the ground. But Tom will be putting them on should we get any trouble from the township or from our insurance company.
We originally wanted railings out here — and built-in bench seats on either side — but now we feel the addition of railings might make the whole portico look even more, um, off-balance. Notice the extra wide stoop by the right column? Yeah, that wasn't supposed to be like that. It's actually kinda funny if you think about it...this highly symmetrical house having an off-center front stoop. I guess if that's the worst mistake resulting from our whole project, we're pretty fortunate.
At least it gives us a good laugh every time we come home.
4:38 p.m. Monday, January 17,
We were excited to come home and find yet another white sticker on our window, this time from the plumbing inspector. We need to mention that we had absolutely nothing to do with the rough plumbing, and being completely confident in the skills and timeliness of our plumber was such a wonderful feeling...especially with the horror stories we've heard about plumbers and their inability to show up. Or return phone calls.
Get this: Our plumber calls us!
Now our framing inspection is next. This weekend, we ran one Cat-5 cable to the basement from each data jack in the house (10 total), so it's obvious to the inspector that all of our Cat-5 cable holes are drilled. And even though we're not done running cable through these holes — each spot will get one more Cat-5 cable and one coaxial cable run to it...maybe even speaker wire — we can still have the framing inspection done. Then if we pass, we can insulate once we're done with the remaining cable runs. So again, we're in a time crunch to finish running cables.
We're really looking forward to getting insulated so our house will actually RETAIN the heat pumping out of our new furnace day and night.
Insulation will also enable us ("us" being Roland) to connect our shiny copper water lines to our new in-line hot water heater:
Ryan has been curious to try this unconventional water heating system ever since it was released for residential use in the U.S. (In-line water heaters have been used regularly in Europe for quite some time now.)
The difference between what we bought and a standard water heater (our old 40-gallon, above) is that a tankless water heater heats water as needed, as you're using it, whereas a standard water heater is constantly keeping hot the water it stores in its tank.
The price of the 7.4 gallon per minute Rheem Pronto! unit, which is one of the largest units on the market, was equal to that of a standard large water heater (Rheem is a client of Ryan's company, so we got a discount). And since water is heated only as it flows through the unit, it is off the charts for efficient energy — literally — and we never have to worry about running out of hot water.
We like that idea...especially for filling the hot tub:
I believe this water heater can handle 3 large tasks simultaneously — such as taking a shower, washing clothes, and running a dishwasher — but it wouldn't be able to produce enough hot water if you were doing more than that at once (whereas a regular water heater could handle them all at once, just for a very limited time). We're not worried. ;)
Looking forward to trying it out!
6:12 p.m. Tuesday, January 18,
Tomorrow, our house is being insulated!
This means our house will stay WARM! This means the basement won't be 20 degrees warmer than the UPSTAIRS!
There's a highly critical "OK To Insulate" note at the top of this sticker...
No time to explain how this all makes sense — trust me, it does. I have to meet Ryan at home and finish running all the coax tonight before they insulate tomorrow (we finished all the Cat-5 last night). We still can't believe that we can PAY to have our house insulated for LESS than it would have cost us just to buy the materials ourselves — not including how much time it would have taken us. So that was a no-brainer.
OK I'm off!
6:03 p.m. Thursday, January 20,
Our house is insulated — but I have no photos to prove it! I have yet to see it for myself, actually, and I'm taking Ryan's word for it that it looks fantastic and makes the place seem more house-like than ever.
So, why haven't I seen it...?
I wasn't quite sure what was going on, but figured everything would be fine once I got up and stretched and got ready for my day. But I soon realized that this wasn't normal morning stiffness. Any kind of movement beyond standing up completely straight caused a lot of pain between my shoulder blades below my neck.
So I did what any "Ignore your problems and maybe they'll go away" type person would do: I took an Aleve and went to work.
After sitting at my desk for a little while, I felt worse. As people came over to talk to me, I realized I wasn't able to turn my head to see who was there. All day, I worried people would wonder why on earth I wouldn't look them in the eye. "Who's this weird new freelancer...?"
To make a long story short, Ryan and I took the night off. Meaning I didn't get to see the house and its beauteous insulation, though I made Ryan describe every nook and cranny in detail. He came home from work and pampered me and we lounged on the couch (well, he lounged...not me so much) watching a movie we downloaded with Lori and Jay.
So why am I telling you all this here in a journal about our house? To make myself feel better for taking an unscheduled night off, of course ;)
I know that every now and then, we really should take a night off, though I still feel guilty admitting I layed around like a slug with a bag of frozen corn wedged between me and the couch. And tonight is another night off for me (Ryan is off at Home Depot looking for pull-down attic stairs, now that we have a gaping hole in our new insulation for where the stairs will go). I can't remember the last time I had two nights off in a row!
But until I am able to function like a normal person — you know, able to raise my arms past this high and have a conversation with someone without having to turn my whole chair around to see them — I know I'd better take it easy, or some other unexplainable ailment might force me to.
10:52 p.m. Monday, January 25,
We made sure to have the downstairs bath insulated, as it is situated between the living room and the kitchen breakfast area. The paper on the insulation for the bathroom says "QuietZone" and features the Pink Panther going ssshhh. I was hoping we'd get some Pink Panther insulation in here somewhere, but this stuff is way cooler than I anticipated.
The insulation really made a difference because we started noticing we'd get huge drafts from the attic wherever it was missing. Fortunately, Ryan and my dad have put in the new attic stairs, eliminating the worst offender.
They're much nicer than the old, rickety stairs and flimsy door we USED to have.
And after all our hard work, we were rewarded with some fluffy white goodness:
11:33 a.m. Tuesday, January 26,
OK, a little wrap up before I start:
1. Yes, my neck is feeling just fine, thank you...not sure what that was all about, just glad it's better (though not sure how to prevent it from happening again).
2. No, we still haven't passed our framing inspection...or our insulation inspection, for that matter.
3. Yes, we are close to getting both of those done and re-inspected. We hope.
We used to have 3 more white stickers, but they were never removed from our old window...that went in the dumpster. D'oh.
Now on to our new adventure: Tiling our guest bath upstairs!
Tiling is something we've never done before, but my experienced dad is eager to help and I am armed with my Home Depot Christmas present, "Tiling 1-2-3" (thanks, Ry's mom), so it's all coming together so far.
To start with, we bought 4 sheets of cement board to install over the plywood sub floor, which provides a sturdy surface on which to lay the tile. Both the tiling book and the cement board instructions said we could thoroughly score the cement board with a razor and then snap it to make our cuts, but we found that didn't provide an even break, and chunks of cement would break off on the wrong side of the cement board.
So my dad and I discovered a much better way to make our cuts: with a sawzall.
After a few extra cuts and a little wiggling, all the pieces fit into place.
Then Dad came back on Monday to cement the boards down, screw them into the studs below (it took 150 screws for our little bathroom!), tape the seams, and patch everything together.
Last night, he and I measured the area and spaced one tile on either side of the centerline from the front of the room to the back. Once that strip was in, we added the rest of the tiles and the border, using 1/8" spacers throughout.
The same "mocha" tiles that are inside the border will edge the floor along the wall on the other side of the border, once they're cut.
All this happened, of course, after much back and forth between Ryan and I over pattern, border, and tile itself. I was going for something more classic (white tile with little cobalt blue diamonds, maybe some matching white subway tile on the wall with a cobalt blue border), but Ryan won on this one.
4:22 p.m. Monday, January 31,